Not your average day at the office


TPF Noob!
Jan 22, 2009
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Kabul (normally Kenya)
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Short story and some accompanying pix for interest. All shots D3X and 24-70 f/2.8, most shot thru an inch of tinted armoured glass, amazed they came out at all!

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5am, alarm sounds, quick shower, coffee and a bowl of cereal, then outside to meet the security team, load up the armored car and head to the military side of Kabul airport.

A relatively pleasant (more coffee) short wait later, we board the 20seater USAID air asset for Kandahar, then try to snooze on the 90min flight, even though after 15mins flight time, its absolutely freezing on the plane, and my feet are blocks of ice.

Kandahar at last, this is my first visit after 15 months in country, first impressions, Very Hot, very flat and extremely dusty. Loud too!!! within 10 secs of getting off the plane a fighter roars past on takeoff, deafening, and a stark reminder we are in an operational area militarily speaking, which just seems bizarre when you take in the fact that regular airlines are also landing here.

The airport is quite pleasant, airy and bright, nesting swallows swoop over our heads twisting between various parts of the building so fast it’s difficult to track them.

My two colleagues, and Iwalk through what seems like an empty building at times and with so little security visible a stark contrast to regular airports. Then on and out of the building where our security team meets us. A Brit, a Nepalese, and two Fijians are waiting in the car park. Introductions over, it’s a quick brief re the security situation. Six suicide bombers are reportedly in the area looking for targets, and huge quantities of explosives have been recovered in the last few days by an ongoing search by the local military and police, so its on with the bulletproof vests and helmets for the 40min drive into town and our office/guesthouse.

4 vehicles, 8 security personnel, loads of guns, (even the driver has an AK47 wedged by the seat) and a nervous ride in, 150 m between the 2 sets of cars, the Taliban apparently often take out the last vehicle in a convoy.

Eventually, we make the guest house, quick food stop, then back into the cars and off to the office9400m away), a few hours of work, then answering emails, and phone calls, we plan the next day, home, food and bed, its been a long day.

Next morning, wake at 6am, up and quick shower, then breakfast, bowl of cereal, piece of toast then back on with the Vests for the 2 ½ drive to Spin Boldak, right on the border with Pakistan and a major arterial route re both outgoing goods (opium paste?) and incoming, goods (and weapons?). Motorcycle groups of Taliban often take out Afghan Police and Army units along this road, itsa long straight road with no turnoffs, so in either direction any spotters on the road have a clear 2 hrs to warn or alert of the approach of any military, or in our case, soft target foreigners.

Lonely Police outposts along the way bear testament to what often happens at night, with signs of bullet and shrapnel holes in the hence barriers (wire cages filled with stones and soil, more efficient than sandbags) protecting these. One of the policemen barely looks old enough to be in secondary school, let alone the Police. One outpost has used mortar rounds planted like flowers in front of the post.

After a long but event free drive through some amazing scenery, desolate in places, mountainous , bare and moonlike even, followed by grassy plains interspersed with isolated rocky outcrops of varying sizes, some, hundreds of feet high, others, hardly bigger than pyramids and similar in shape, we arrive in Spin Boldak.

Here we meet the staff at the Governors office, conduct some business then move on, apparently we are the first foreign visitors for some time, and the local Police and guards in the compound are so excited to see “Americans” they are ringing their families and friends, to infotm them of the news and security are getting nervous in case someone has other intentions.

A quick trip into the centre, get out the car, with security taking defensive positions either side of us (these guys are really good) a few quick shots, a chat with the local shopkeepers where our project is located then back in the car for the ride home.

25 mins back, we slow down as we catch up with a Military convoy (international), you don't overtake or even get close to these here, they are checking the culverts for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) they stop for a few minutes they move on to the next culvert, with humvees off road checking for command wires or hidden spotters, after the third culvert , they find something, an IED has been found, we learn later it was an incendiary device, who was it intended for?, who knows?. The military accompanied by the Afghan police now halt all traffic, and we are now stuck in a major jam 200m from the protection of the military and their jamming and electronic counter measures..

Surrounded by other road users, with most of them now out of their cars and wandering around, obviously noticing the foreigners sitting amongst them, soon we become the center of attention . Although all are friendly and smiling, we are sitting ducks for any suicide bomber unable to reach his probable ideal target, the police or military. Eventually, the Afghan Police come closer, and our security speaks to them, at which point we are allowed to exit the jam and slowly move forward at walking pace up and past the military convoy, with the machine gun in the rear vehicle tracking us all the way as we go, until eventually we clear the blockade and head onwards to Kandahar.

After 5 mins driving, a quick watering stop by the side of the road, safe in the fact nothing is following us for a while, we take in the scenery for 2 mins, few quick shots, then back in again, god these vests are heavy, my back is killing me with the weight.

Another 2 hours of breathtaking scenery, then into the city, with a few stops, pulling over away from oncoming military convoys, then home in the guesthouse. Safe. 2 hrs later, an explosion rocks the city; none of our colleagues, regulars in the guesthouse make more than a passing remark, this is Kandahar after all.
Interesting story. It sounds almost fun in a nerve racking kind of way.

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